Easy to make and delicious to eat, this Italian dish is comfort food at its best - serve with a robust sauce, such as this classic tomato.
Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Line a roasting tin with a 1/2cm (1/4in) layer of salt. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and arrange on the salt. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until soft inside. Remove the potatoes from the oven and set aside. Discard the salt.
While the potatoes are baking, make the sauce. In a pan, cook the onion in the oil until softened. Add the garlic and chilli, cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, half a tin of just-boiled water and the sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, then stir in the basil.
Scoop out the potato flesh and discard the skins. Mash or pass through a sieve (or potato ricer) into a mixing bowl, until smooth. Add the flour, nutmeg, cheese and egg, then season well. Gently mix to form a soft dough, adding a little more flour if it feels too sticky.
Tip out the ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut into quarters. Roll each piece into a sausage shape 1cm (1/2in) in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut each sausage at an angle into 2·5cm (1in) lengths, to make approximately 68 gnocchi in total.
Using the back of a fork, gently press on each gnocchi to create decorative grooves on one side. Arrange the finished gnocchi on a large, flour-dusted tray, then cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes (or for up to 2 days) to firm up.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Drop in half the gnocchi, wait for them to rise to the surface, then cook for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon; repeat with the remaining gnocchi. Reheat the sauce and stir in the gnocchi. Serve with a little more cheese and some basil.
Spinach and goat’s cheese
For a great veggie gnocchi, replace the Parmesan with crumbled goat’s cheese and stir in 200g (7oz) chopped, blanched and drained baby spinach to the potato mixture (step 3).
Creamy mushroom and broccoli
Swap the tomato sauce for a creamy one. Pan-fry sliced mushrooms and broccoli florets in butter and olive oil, until golden. Add chopped garlic, fry for 1 minute more, then add a splash of white wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then stir in some crème fraîche; season.
Red pepper and chorizo
Add diced chorizo, a pinch of paprika and chopped roasted peppers (from the deli counter or a jar) to the tomato sauce mixture. Put the cooked gnocchi in a heatproof dish and scatter with torn mozzarella and some breadcrumbs. Grill until melted and golden.
Traditionally used for making pasta, finely milled 00 four helps to give the gnocchi a wonderfully light texture. If you can’t track any down, plain four is the next best thing.
Use waxy potatoes, such as Desirée, in your dough. This red tips variety is less wet than other spuds, which makes it ideal for gnocchi.
The secret to light, fluffy gnocchi is dry mash. Salting the roasting tin (step 1) draws out moisture from the spuds while they bake. The potato skins are then discarded, leaving the flesh salt-free.
Try not to overwork the dough – this can cause the gluten in the four to stretch, which can give chewy results.
Creating grooves in the gnocchi (step 5) gives the sauce something to cling to.
For a great standby dish, open freeze the gnocchi from step 5, then transfer to a freezer bag for up to 1 month. Cook from frozen until they float to the surface (step 6).
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